14 August 2011
29 January 2011
28 December 2010
1000 Days is a coalition of powerful actors who have take up the cause of addressing child hunger through a focus on nutrition. Launched on the side of the MDG +10 summit in September by UN Sec-Gen Ban Ki Moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 1000 Days refers to the World Bank's definition of a critical window of opportunity, from pregnancy to the age of 2, when the impact of maternal and child malnutrition is irreversible. The 1000 Days coalition contends that a child who receives the right nutrition during this window is less likely to die or be harmed by disease.
4 June 2008
At the Rome summit on the global food crisis:
Time for talk over - Action needed
3 June 2008, Rome - Noting that the time for talk was over and that action was urgently needed, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf today appealed to world leaders for US$30 billion a year to re-launch agriculture and avert future threats of conflicts over food.Read more...
In an impassioned speech at the opening of the Rome Summit called to de-fuse the current world food crisis, Dr Diouf noted that in 2006 the world spent US$1 200 billion on arms while food wasted in a single country could cost US$100 billion and excess consumption by the world’s obese amounted to US$20 billion.
“Against that backdrop, how can we explain to people of good sense and good faith that it was not possible to find US$30 billion a year to enable 862 million hungry people to enjoy the most fundamental of human rights: the right to food and thus the right to life?” Dr Diouf asked.
“It is resources of this order of magnitude that would make it possible definitely to lay to rest the specter of conflicts over food that are looming on the horizon,” he added.
Increased production in poor countries
“The structural solution to the problem of food security in the world lies in increasing production and productivity in the low-income, food-deficit countries,” he declared.
This called for “innovative and imaginative solutions”, including “partnership agreements ... between countries that have financial resources, management capabilities and technologies and countries that have land, water and human resources”.
The current world food crisis had already had "tragic political and social consequences in different countries” and could further “endanger world peace and security”, Dr Diouf said.
But the crisis was in essence a “chronicle of disaster foretold”, he noted. Despite the World Food Summit’s solemn pledge in 1996 to halve world food hunger by 2015, resources to finance agricultural programmes in developing countries had not only failed to rise but decreased significantly since then.
Some US$24 billion would have been needed to fund an anti-hunger programme prepared for the second World Food Summit held in 2002, Dr Diouf recalled.
“In cooperation with FAO, the developing countries did in fact prepare policies, strategies and programmes that, if they had received appropriate funding, would have assured world food security,” he said.
But, he continued, “today the facts speak for themselves: from 1980 to 2005 aid to agriculture fell from US$8 billion ( 2004 basis) in 1984 to US$3.4 billion in 2004, representing a reduction in real terms of 58 percent”.
Agriculture’s share of Official Development Assistance (ODA) fell from 17 percent in 1980 to 3 percent in 2006, he also noted.
“Regrettably the international community only reacts when the media beam the distressing spectacle of world suffering into the homes of the wealthy countries,” Dr Diouf commented.
Social, political unrest
The Director-General said he had alerted public opinion as far back as last September to the risks of social and political unrest due to hunger and that in December he had appealed for US$1.7 billion to help overcome the crisis by facilitating the crisis by facilitating farmers'access to seeds, fertilizer, animal feed and other inputs.
But the appeal had generally fallen on deaf ears, despite broad press coverage and correspondence with Member Nations and financial institutions. “It was only when the destitute and those excluded from the abundant tables of the rich took to the streets to voice their discontent and despair that the first reactions in support of food aid began to emerge,” Dr Diouf said.
“Important today is to realize that the time for talking is long past,” he stressed. “Now is the time for action”.
Today there were 862 million people in the world without adequate access to food, the Director-General said. But the current food crisis went beyond the traditional humanitarian dimension because it also affected developed countries, where it fuelled inflation.
“If we do not urgently take the courageous decisions that are required in the present circumstances, the restrictive measures taken by producing countries to meet the needs of their populations, the impact of climate change and speculation on futures markets will place the world in a dangerous situation,” Dr Diouf warned.
Sustainable and viable global solutions were needed to narrow the gap between supply and demand, he said. Otherwise “whatever the extent of their financial reserves, some countries might not find food to buy”.
The Director-General noted that contradictions and distortions at international policy level had contributed to the current crisis.
“Nobody understands how a carbon market of US$64 billion can be created in the developed countries but that no funds can be found to prevent the annual deforestation of 13 million hectares,” he said.
Food versus fuel
Also incomprehensible was the fact that subsidies worth US$11-12 billion in 2006 were used to divert 100 million tonnes of cereals from human consumption “mostly to satisfy a thirst for fuels for vehicles”.
Inexplicable too was that in a time of globalization there has been no significant investment in the prevention of a long list of major trans-boundary animal diseases, starting with Newcastle and foot-and-mouth diseases.
But the basic contradiction lay in the fact that OECD countries were distorting world markets, spending US$372 billion in 2006 alone to support their agriculture.
“The problem of food insecurity is a political one, “Dr Diouf concluded. “It is a question of priorities in the face of the most fundamental of human needs. And it those choices made by Governments that determine the allocation of resources.”
3 June 2008
HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE ON WORLD FOOD SECURITY: THE CHALLENGES OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND BIOENERGY.
ADDRESS BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Your Excellency President Giorgio Napolitano, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Your Excellency Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Honourable Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the FAO, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
You all know about the severity and scale of the global food crisis. Before this emergency, more than 850 million people in the world were short of food. The World Bank estimates that this figure could rise by a further 100 million. The poorest of the poor spend two-thirds or more of their income on food. They will be hardest hit.
I have seen this for myself. In Liberia recently, I met people who normally would buy rice by the bag. Today, they buy it by the cup. In Cote d’Ivoire , the leaders of a country recovering from conflict and trying to build a democracy told me how they feared that food riots could undo all their hard work. We fear the same in other countries that, with UN help, have made gains in recent years: Afghanistan , Haiti and Liberia , to name but a few. And let us not forget the millions who suffer in silence and will go hungry unnoticed.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
The threats are obvious to us all. Yet this crisis also presents us with an opportunity. It is a chance to revisit past policies. While we must respond immediately to high food prices, it is important that our longer term focus is on improving world food security - and remains so for some years
That is why I am so pleased that we are here. I thank Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the FAO, for his leadership. The world needs to produce more food. Food production needs to rise by 50% by the year 2030 to meet the rising demand. We have an historic opportunity to revitalize agriculture - especially in countries where productivity gains have been low in recent years.
Governments have already begun to respond. Some countries are helping farmers pay for basic agricultural “inputs,” such as seeds and fertilizers, the price of which has been so significantly affected by the rise in oil prices. We urgently need to find ways to support these initiatives, politically and financially.
That is why last month I set up a High-Level Task Force to come up with a Comprehensive Framework for Action. I want us to have a shared understanding of both the problems and solutions, and to move forward together, with urgency.
I would like to share some of the Task Force's recommendations with you.
First, we must improve vulnerable people's access to food and take immediate steps to increase food availability in their communities.
· expanding food assistance through food aid, vouchers or cash;
· scaling up nutritional support and improving safety nets and social protection programmes to help the most vulnerable;
· boosting smallholder farmer food production through an urgent injection of key inputs (including seeds and fertilizers) i n time for this year’s planting seasons;
· improving rural infrastructure and links to markets, and expanding micro-credit programmes;
· adjusting trade and taxation policies to minimize export restrictions and import tariffs, and helping the free flow of agricultural goods;
· skillfully managing the impact of rising food prices on inflation and macro-economic policy;
· supporting balance of payments of net food importing countries where necessary; and
· helping to ensure that short term measures to respond to food price rises are financially sustainable for governments.
To guide us, we must improve food security and nutritional assessment systems, to ensure that we receive early warnings of hardship and are ready to respond.
Some countries have taken action by limiting exports or by imposing price controls. As I have said before, I say again now: Beggar Thy Neighbor food policies cannot work. They only distort markets and force prices even higher. I call on nations to resist such measures, and to immediately release exports designated for humanitarian purposes.
Second, we must act for longer term resilience and contribute to global food security.
· addressing structural issues that impede agricultural development;
· ensuring long term investment in smallholder farming in developing countries, including technical and financial support;
· helping governments to reinforce social safety nets for the neediest and most vulnerable people;
· looking at rural infrastructure needs, as well as new financing mechanisms;
· eliminating trade and taxation policies that distort markets - not least through rapid resolution of the Doha round; and
· suppo rting promising research into optimal food crops and better animal production systems, and adapting known technologies to existing food chains.
And we should also reach a greater degree of international consensus on bio-fuels.
These are parallel tracks—immediate needs must not be met at the expense of long-term solutions.
The international system is already contributing to immediate needs.
The FAO has called for $1.7 billion in new funding to provide low-income countries with seeds and other agricultural support and has initiated a programme to counter soaring food prices.
The World Food Program has raised the additional $755 million it needs to meet existing commitments this year. We owe a great debt of thanks to 31 generous donor-nations, most notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It will, of course, need significant extra resources to respond to new needs arising from the impact of the food crisis.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development is giving an additional $200 million to poor farmers in the most affected countries and will want to do more as further resources become available.
The World Bank has established a new $1.2 billion rapid financing facility to address immediate needs and boost food production, including $200 million in grants targeted at the world’s poorest nations.
I have set aside a reserve of $100 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund to help fund new humanitarian needs arising from soaring food prices.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, NGOs and various civil society groups have mobilized as well. They are sponsoring new feeding programs to combat hunger and malnutrition, paying for medicine and sending children to school. Private sector groups are engaged too.
We will work together to scale up these efforts and to ensure that national authorities are able to coordinate their implementation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me conclude by noting that the world’s population will reach 7.2 billion by 2015. Today’s problems will only grow larger tomorrow unless we act now.
I call on you to take bold and urgent steps to address the root causes of this global food crisis. We want a firm commitment to moving ahead.
This will not be easy. It may require big increases in financial support—often in the form of grants and material assistance, not lending. The UN Africa MDG Steering Group has estimated the requirements to realize a Green Revolution in Africa at some $8 to 10 billion annually, just to boost productivity. This suggests that the overall global price tag for national governments and international donors could exceed $ 15 to 20 billion annually, over a number of years.
Whatever the final figures, this will require enormous political will.
We will build on what we achieve here in Rome , at the G-8 Summit in July and the UN General Assembly in September. To the extent that climate change figures in this emergency, we must take it into account at our upcoming negotiations in Poznan and Copenhagen for a comprehensive agreement on global warming.
We must therefore leave this conference with a sense of purpose and mission, knowing that we are allied in our determination to make a difference. Only by acting together, in partnership, can we overcome this crisis, today and for tomorrow. Hundreds of millions of the world’s people expect no less.
Nothing is more degrading than hunger, especially when man-made. It breeds anger, social disintegration, ill-health and economic decline.
In the name of the development goals we all set at the Millennium, the right to food and our common humanity, I urge you to act together now.
Thank you. Read more...
30 May 2008
AFP reports — A severe drought in Ethiopia threatens up to six million children, UNICEF warned on Tuesday. "Up to six million children under five years of age are living in impoverished, drought-prone districts and require continuation of urgent preventive health and nutrition interventions," UNICEF said in a statement.
The agency added that 126,000 children were already suffering from severe malnutrition and needed urgent therapeutic care.
In addition to some eight million people characterised as "food insecure" and supported by a government programme, aid agencies are warning that over 3.4 million people require food aid in several central and southern regions. The World Food Programme (WFP) said it was seeking 147 million dollars (94 million euros) to tackle a shortage of 183,000 metric tons of food to meet the country's needs.
The WFP appeal includes 29 million dollars required to fill gaps in provisions of "blended food", a mix of soya and corn powder for malnourished children.
"Widespread drought , poor rainy seasons, heavy loss of livestock, limited food supply and soaring prices of food, fuel and fertilizer linked to the global food crisis are contributing to the troubled outlook of children in Ethiopia," the UNICEF statement added.
"The mechanisms and capacity to prevent and respond to the increase of severe acute malnutrition are in place but are under resourced," Bjorn Ljungqvist, UNICEF representative in Ethiopia, was quoted as saying.
UNICEF had recently hailed Ethiopia as "exemplary" for its efforts in curbing infant mortality rates.
"Ethiopia has some great gains in curbing child mortality, but they would be completely wiped out by events like this," Viviane Van Steirteghem, UNICEF's deputy representative, told AFP. Read more...
IRIN News reports on the worsening situation in Ethiopia, which, say aid workers...
"...has been hit by drought and rising prices that have once again caused massive food shortages. For example, the costs of some cereals have increased between 50-90 percent since September, stretching the ability of some households to meet their food needs. "The combined effects of drought, food price hikes, and insufficient resources for preventive measures resulted in an emergency that jeopardises significant child survival gains in Ethiopia," Bjorn Ljungqvist, the representative of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Ethiopia, said.Up to 3.4 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, while an estimated 126,000 children are in need of urgent treatment for severe malnutrition. Among children under five years of age, six million face the risk of acute malnutrition - mostly in impoverished, drought-prone districts. Read more...
28 May 2008
REACH is a network of government-led, solution-focused, country-level partnerships among the UN, NGO, civil society and private sectors, which aims to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goal 1, specifically the target on child hunger: halve the number of underweight children under five by 2015. A key REACH objective is to improve tools and strengthen knowledge about how to scale-up nutrition interventions. REACH is joining with the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) to invite SCN members to participate in a survey seeking to identify successful, large-scale programs addressing child hunger. Follow-up interviews will seek to learn more detail about select examples.
Click here to access the survey.
For more information on REACH, contact Denise Costa Coitinho.
If you have technical questions about the survey, please contact our consultant administering the survey, Christoph Rothballer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more...
6 May 2008
NEW YORK, USA, 5 May 2008 -- UNICEF has sent five missions to assess the immediate needs of children and families in Myanmar in the wake of the devastating cyclone that struck the country on Saturday. With estimates of the death toll rapidly rising, UNICEF will lead the relief effort in providing basic needs, including water and sanitation, as well as ensuring that children are protected and their education is interrupted as little as possible.
Read the full report. Read more...
30 April 2008
The Center on International Cooperation (CIC) at New York University has published its brief on rising global food prices, prepared for presentation to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Strategy Unit. Summary of key themes are:
- Food prices are going up. Average food prices went up by 3% in G7 economies between July 2006 and July 2007, and by 10.5% in developing countries; over the same period, corn up 60% and wheat around 50% on US market.
- Demand growth is accelerating. Historically demand growth averaged around 1.5 %/yr; now 2.0%, and Goldman Sachs estimate 2.6% within a decade. World Bank estimates food production will have to rise nearly 50%, and meat by 85%, from 2000 to 2030. World food consumption has been greater than supply for past five years, say International Food Policy Research Institute.
- The relationship between energy and agriculture is changing. Since food can be used for fuel, the potential for an arbitrage relationship opens up, implying greater linkage between prices for both.
- From yield expansion to acreage expansion. Historic demand growth has been met through increasing crop output per unit of land, but commodities analysts say amount of land cultivated will need to expand to meet rising demand. Strong potential for competition between land uses: food, feed, fibre, fuel (and increasingly, carbon sequestration?)
- Rising food prices are one of a suite of ‘scarcity issues’. Strong interlinkages and overlaps between climate change, energy security, water depletion, fisheries depletion, deforestation and other issues – never more so than in the case of agriculture and food (see appended table).
- An increasingly central issue for development and state fragility. While recent development discourse has concentrated on aid, trade and debt relief (and latterly governance too), scarcity issues – and above all climate, energy and food – and how to build resilience to them, are likely to emerge as increasingly central.
- Serious lack of multilateral capacity. Recent UN reform efforts have highlighted problems of fragmentation, ‘silo’ organisations and poor coordination. Multilateral management of the global food system may be the most extreme example – but barely addressed by the recent UN High Level Panel on System Coherence.
17 April 2008
The New York Times' covers the political and policy rethink on biofuels following recent high-level calls to act on rising global food prices:
The idea of turning farms into fuel plants seemed, for a time, like one of the answers to high global oil prices and supply worries. That strategy seemed to reach a high point last year when Congress mandated a fivefold increase in the use of biofuels.
But now a reaction is building against policies in the United States and Europe to promote ethanol and similar fuels, with political leaders from poor countries contending that these fuels are driving up food prices and starving poor people. Biofuels are fast becoming a new flash point in global diplomacy, putting pressure on Western politicians to reconsider their policies, even as they argue that biofuels are only one factor in the seemingly inexorable rise in food prices.
15 April 2008
Recent days have seen food riots and a string of announcements by major agencies in an effort to awaken the global community to the crisis in food prices and supplies. Thirty-three countries are reporting riots due to the heavy increases in food prices:
CNN reports on a "Food Crisis Spawns Deadly Riots". Global food inflation is reaching emergency proportions and could wipe out seven years of gains in fighting poverty.
High food prices are threatening recent gains in overcoming poverty and malnutrition, and are likely to persist over the medium term, says the World Bank:
Al Jazeera reports on the impact in Bangladesh:
WB's Zoellick is calling for a "New Deal" on global food policy, echoing the economic response to the Great Depression, underlining the urgent need for action:
And for the World Food Programme, its recent warnings of a perfect storm in global food insecurity are coming true:
- Brown puts food, child hunger on G8 agenda
- Food price rises threaten global security
- Price of rice continues record surge
- US government ready to export rice to Philippines
- Poor Thai farmers guard their fields as rice prices soar
- Rising Food Prices Intensify Food Insecurity
- Development Gateway: Food Security
12 February 2008
"Children everywhere in the world have the same growth potential in the first five years of life. There is no reason why children in Peru need to be the exception!"The story of two very similar communities in Perú (Aprimac region), both living from local harvest and sharing a long history of poverty. The video focuses on how malnourishment from the very early years can seriously affect their physical and intellectual growing. From the World Bank. Read more...
8 February 2008
Reuters reports on the progress of the US Congress Farm Bill, the US$286 billion package that will set farm subsidies, food stamps, and food-aid policy for the next five years:
... Aid workers likewise expect Congress to defy administration advice and carve out around $450 million a year from the main food aid budget for longer-term, nonemergency projects. That set-aside for nonemergency aid would be in line with what the House passed in July, and would eat almost 40 percent of the overall emergency food aid budget.Read the entire article here and also see our previous coverage:
Unlike emergency aid, the nonemergency programs channel commodity donations to aid groups, which sell the crops within poor countries to fund projects supporting more productive farms, improved nutrition, or better local sanitation.
According to Bob Zachritz, senior policy adviser at World Vision, an aid group that runs nonemergency food aid programs in more than 30 countries, the approach is based on the adage, "Do you give a person a fish or do you teach them to fish?"
He said the nonemergency programs, which have received about $350 million a year in recent years, can be more costly in the short run, but are ultimately more efficient because they can break the cycle of famine and food crises.
5 February 2008
"The cause of many of our diseases is the condition of our lavatories and our bad habit of disposing of excreta anywhere and everywhere".Ghandi had no hesitation saying that in his view sanitation was more important than independence. In this, the International Year of Sanitation, it is alarming to note that some 1.5 million children die every year due to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene, while more than a third of the world's population does not have access to basic toilet facilities.Mahatma Gandhi, 1925
In an interview with Inter Press, Andrew Hudson of UNDP marks out the enormous impact poor sanitation is having on children in developing countries:
Some 1.8 million children die each year as a result of diarrhoea -- which is 4,900 deaths a day. This is equivalent to the under-five population in London and New York combined. Access to sanitation is one of the strongest determinants of child survival: the transition from unimproved to improved sanitation reduces child mortality by a third. Astoundingly, an estimated 443 million school days are lost each year from water-related illness.Read more. Read more...
The Inter Press news agency reports:
"Biofuels have quickly turned from environmental saviour to just another mega-scale get-rich quick scheme. Countries and regions without their own oil reserves to tap now see their farms, peatlands and forests as potential "oil fields" -- shallow but renewable lakes of green oil.Read the entire article here. Read more...
"However, renewable does not mean sustainable, and in most cases the only green part of biofuel is the wealth they generate.
"Not surprisingly, given the record high oil prices, worldwide investment in bioenergy reached 21 billion dollars in 2007, according to the U.N. Environment Programme. The Inter-American Development Bank announced 3 billion dollars for investment in private sector biofuel projects -- mainly in Brazil -- while the World Bank said it had 10 billion dollars available in 2007.
"Meanwhile development assistance for food-producing agriculture had fallen to 3.4 billion dollars in 2004 -- with the World Bank's share less than 1 billion dollars, according to the Bank's own World Development Report on Agriculture released in October 2007. And most of this financial assistance was spent on subsidising use of chemical fertilisers."
28 January 2008
...if the research is right, money for improving nutrition would be the most effective sort of aid around. At the moment, roughly $300m of aid goes to basic nutrition each year, less than $2 for each child below two in the 20 worst affected countries. In contrast, HIV/AIDS, which causes fewer deaths than child malnutrition, received $2.2 billion—$67 per person with HIV in all countries (including rich ones). Focusing on nutrition and mortality also makes sense... because it forces policymakers to pay attention to health-care systems as a whole, rather than trying to save children “one disease at a time”. Given the scale of the crisis, the case for aid organisations redirecting money and attention to the problem of hunger looks compelling.Read more...
26 January 2008
Covering the Davos session calling for urgent action on the Millennium Development Goals, the Associated Press reports:
Nearly 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day, half of the developing world lacks basic sanitation, 1 million people die of malaria each year, AIDS still wreaks havoc on poor nations and 72 million children are not in school, according to a panel that included Gates, U2 frontman Bono, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.Among the speakers, Bono offered this:
"This is the moment when our generation gets to draw a line in the sand — or snow," (referring to Davos' Alpine setting). "Where other generations put a man on the moon, we can't put every kid in school. ... Where other generations fought fascism and injustice and prevailed, we fail in our fight against the (malaria-carrying) anopheles mosquito, which kills 3,000 children a day."Find more articles on the session here. Read more...
25 January 2008
Leaders including World Bank Group president Robert B. Zoellick, UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman convened in Davos to announce an expanded 36-month effort to achieve scale-up of malaria control across sub-Saharan Africa. Timed with the release of new report at the World Economic Forum claiming 3.5 million lives could be saved over the next five years if malaria prevention and treatment measures were rapidly scaled up in the 30 hardest hit countries in Africa, the accelerated effort will help malaria-endemic countries by combining the best practices of public health with the best ideas from the private sector.
The report, We Can't Afford to Wait: The Business Case for Rapid Scale-up of Malaria Control in Africa, was prepared by Malaria No More and McKinsey & Company on behalf of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM). It details how rapid scale-up would also increase annual economic output by as much as $30 billion in Africa, prevent 672 million malaria cases, and free up 427,000 needed hospital beds over five years. Read more...
At Davos to announce USD300 million in grants to develop farming in the least developed countries, Bill Gates addressed the World Economic Forum to call on the world's business elite to usher in a new form of "creative capitalism" to meet the challenges facing humanity:
"If we are serious about ending extreme hunger and poverty around the world, we must be serious about transforming agriculture for small farmers, most of whom are women. The challenge here is to design a system including profit and recognition to do more for the poor."
24 January 2008
On the eve of Davos '08, World Bank President, Robert Zoellick has used an interview with the Financial Times to call for more action on fighting hunger and malnutrition:
The Bank president said he would try to use the Davos gathering to "draw attention to hunger and malnutrition, the forgotten Millennium Development Goals".Read more...
Fighting malnutrition was essential to success on other development fronts, such as reducing infant mortality, improving maternal health and strengthening primary education, he argued.
Mr Zoellick said he expected food prices - and energy prices - to stay high for a sustained period. He said: "I think biofuels is an element in the overall demand picture."
But he did not single out booming demand for non-fossil fuels as the cause of high food prices, as some development experts have done. He said a big contributor to rising grain prices worldwide was increasing incomes and changing diets in China, India and other large developing countries.
22 January 2008
Strategies to help reduce the number of deaths of under-fives feature in the latest stanza of UNICEF’s annual flagship report - The State of the World’s Children 2008: Child Survival.
“Community-level integration of essential services for mothers, newborns and young children, and sustainable improvements in national health systems can save the lives of many of the more than 26,000 children under five who die each day,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Ann Veneman, at the reort's launch in Geneva. “The report describes the impact of simple, affordable life-saving measures, such as exclusive breastfeeding, immunization, insecticide-treated bed nets and vitamin A supplementation, all of which have helped to reduce child deaths in recent years.”
The challenge is to ensure children have access to a continuum of health care, backed by strong national health systems, said WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, at the launch. “Innovative programs in many countries show that an integrated approach where each child is reached with a package of interventions at one time can bring immediate benefits." Read more...
16 January 2008
Undernutrition is the largely preventable cause of over a third - 3.5 million - of all child deaths and 11% of the total disease burden worldwide are due to maternal and child undernutrition.
There is a golden interval for intervention: from pregnancy to 2 years of age. After age 2 years, undernutrition will have caused irreversible damage for future development towards adulthood.
Yet the international nutrition system is broken. Leadership is absent, resources are too few, capacity is fragile, and emergency response systems are urgently needed.
The series aims to increase awareness around maternal and child undernutrition and serve as a catalyst for national-level governments, NGOs and the international nutrition community to spur action and stimulate national interest, leadership, and commitment.
The five papers offer new evidence and findings across the following issues:
- Paper 1: Over a third of child deaths and 11% global disease burden from maternal and child undernutrition;
- Paper 2 : Poor fetal growth or stunting in first two years leads to large negative consequences in later life;
- Paper 3: Maternal and child nutrition interventions could prevent quarter of child deaths in poor communities;
- Paper 4: 80% of world’s undernourished children live in just 20 countries;
- Paper 5: The international nutrition system: fragmented, dysfunctional, and desperately in need of reform;
- About the Series: Information on Series authors, The Lancet, and the papers
- Global Events: Events are being planned in Ethiopia, West Africa, Peru, Vietnam, India, London, and Washington, D.C. Find out more about these events and how you can get involved
- Media Center: Members of the media can access press announcements, background materials, and submit interview requests
- Resource Center: Access reports, research, and more on maternal and child undernutrition
- Go here to listen to keynote speakers at the London launch including Dr Denise Coitinho, of WHO, seconded to WFP, and UNICEF's Dr Bruce Cogill, IASC Global Nutrition Cluster Coordinator.
- The presentation in DC was broadcast on the web and will be available shortly here. Also available is the powerpoint used by Prof. Robert Black, Chairman, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
30 December 2007
World Vision Australia is helping 20 million people to break the cycle of poverty. Still the fact is every three seconds one child dies from preventable causes. One child every three seconds...what are you doing right now?
17 December 2007
Reuters reports on a new US Senate plan that would steer more US food aid funds to development projects that "attack the root causes of hunger":
"In one key change, the plan would set aside $600 million a year, about half the amount appropriated in recent budgets for emergency food aid, to provide a third more support for programs to improve farming techniques in poor countries or teach mothers about childhood nutrition.However, the bill is also a locus for a complex web of competing issues and special interests which, says Reuters:
"Ellen Levinson, who heads an alliance of aid groups that receive U.S. commodity donations and sell them in developing countries to fund those programs, said the change would help wean chronically hungry countries from dependence on food aid."
"...also sidesteps an entreaty from the Bush administration, which this year revived a long-sought plan to allow up to a quarter of emergency food aid to be bought in the developing world instead of shipping US crops overseas.Read the full article here. Read more...
"The plan was billed as a way to make assistance more efficient, especially important in an era of soaring crop prices and steep fees for shipping grain across oceans.
"A government watchdog found this year that overhead consumes about 65 percent of US emergency food aid funding."
4 December 2007
The International Herald Tribune reports on the extraordinary turnaround in Malawi from the brink of famine to exporter of food to its struggling neighbours:
'In Malawi itself, the prevalence of acute child hunger has fallen sharply. In October, the United Nations Children's Fund sent three tons of powdered milk, stockpiled here to treat severely malnourished children, to Uganda instead. "We will not be able to use it!" Juan Ortiz-Iruri, Unicef's deputy representative in Malawi, said jubilantly. Farmers explain Malawi's extraordinary turnaround — one with broad implications for hunger-fighting methods across Africa — with one word: fertilizer. [...]Malawi's "successful use of subsidies is contributing to a broader reappraisal of the crucial role of agriculture in alleviating poverty in Africa and the pivotal importance of public investments in the basics of a farm economy: fertilizer, improved seed, farmer education, credit and agricultural research." Read more...
29 November 2007
A recent study to be published in the December 2007 edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes sought to examine whether maternal HIV disease stage during pregnancy and child malnutrition are associated with child mortality. Low maternal hemoglobin concentration and child undernutrition were found to be related to an increased risk of mortality in this cohort of children. The study concludes that the "prevention and treatment of undernutrition in children remain critical interventions in settings with high HIV prevalence." Read more...
6 November 2007
"KOLARAS, India, 30 Oct 2007 -- When nine-month-old twins Devki and Rahul were brought by their mother to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre in Kolaras -- located in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh -- Rahul was a normal weight and size for his age, yet his sister Devki weighed just over half of what she should have. Devki's condition was the result of severe malnutrition. Both babies showed such varied weight and health that doctors suspected less food was given to Devki, a common occurrence in some areas of India where boys are often given more attention than girls."Read more...
29 October 2007
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs's IRIN news service reports on a dangerous practice gaining currency among the hungry street children of Nepal's capital, Katmandu:
Bhim Pariyar huddled in a corner with other boys like him, all trying to warm themselves around the fire they had made by burning plastic, paper and tyres.
“It’s time for fun now,” Pariyar told his friends as he took out the packet of dendrite [ a carpet glue].
“You know, this helps us to get rid of our hunger,” explained his friend, 14-year-old Rajen Subba, who ... cannot afford regular food or clothing to keep warm, and has been living on the streets for the past six years. [He] complains of chest pain and often gets sick. [...]
The adhesive glue contains toluene, a sweet-smelling and intoxicating hydrocarbon, which is neurotoxic. The solvent dissolves the membrane of the brain cells and causes hallucinations as well as dampening hunger pangs, and wards off cold.
“I forget everything. I won’t feel cold and hungry and can sleep easily,” said Shyam Tamang, 12, another street boy.
Read the full story. Read more...
25 October 2007
OCHA's news service IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) reports on disturbing dilemma facing developing countries trying to establish better food security: food or biofuels?
MBABANE, 25 October 2007 (IRIN) - The government of Swaziland announced this week that it would be allocating thousands of hectares to a private company to cultivate cassava for biofuel. About 40 percent of the country's one million people are facing acute food and water shortages.Read the full article here.
"The cassava ethanol project has restarted the debate on how the country should use its agriculture land," said Sipho Mthetfwa, an agriculture extension officer in Shiselweni Region in the south of the country.
"The quick answer is, 'to grow food for the people', but government's stance is that we need to develop industry and new markets so people can collect wages and buy food, because traditional agriculture is too undependable."
As oil prices soar and biofuel production becomes more attractive, especially to poor countries, a global debate is raging over the possible impact on food security.
By placing the cassava project in drought-affected Lavumisa, in southeastern Shiselweni, where agriculture has been limping along for years, government is attracting criticism that it favours exports over food security at home.
"This year's drought has been nationwide, but drought has hit Lavumisa for 15 years," said Mthetfwa. "There are mostly small landholder farmers here - they are too poor to buy inputs for irrigation. And don't talk to them about alternative, drought-tolerant crops - they don't want to grow anything other than maize ... [which] has not grown well in years."
Time for cassava
Cassava is drought-tolerant and productive in poor soils, and has traditionally been grown by poor farmers in marginal areas. Between 1961 and 1995, cassava production for human consumption rose by 50 percent in Africa and 70 percent in Asia, the leading producer of cassava-derived starches, which are now being fermented to produce biofuel, according to the FAO.
Liquefied cassava starch is fermented from two to four days using a yeast, sometimes in combination with a bacterium. "A basic production plant - peelers, graters, fermenters and a distiller - can produce about 280 litres of 96 percent pure ethanol from a tonne of cassava with 30 percent starch content," the FAO says on its website.
The Swazi government is allocating unirrigated land to a local concern called USA Distilleries, which makes molasses from the sugar cane grown in the eastern lowveld but is based in Big Bend, a town 60km north of Lavumisa. The company is investing more than US$5 million in the biofuel project, which is expected to generate 700 jobs in an area that has remained undeveloped since the country's independence in 1968.
USA Distilleries declined to comment on its new venture but more details are expected to be released after the environmental impact assessment has been completed.
"The ethanol made from cassava will be sold overseas, where there is a ready market," said Lutfo Dlamini, Minister of Enterprise and Employment, who announced the arrangement this week.
The proponents of prioritising food security over revenue from biofuel cite government's efforts in the 1990s to encourage small-scale farmers to form cooperatives to grow the "cash crop", sugar cane, rather than food. When sugar prices started falling three years ago the cooperatives went bankrupt. "If we had grown vegetables for the market we would be in business today," said Abner Dlamini, a member of a cooperative that was dissolved in 2005.
Florence Dube, a food aid worker in Manzini, the main commercial town, said, "There is a need for food today. Food prices are so high that this is an investment as worthy as ethanol. If the fields of Lavumisa can be irrigated to grow cassava, they can be irrigated to grow food for people."
''The quick answer is, 'to grow food for the people', but government's stance is that we need to develop industry and new markets so people can collect wages and buy food, because traditional agriculture is too undependable''
However, a source at the ministry of enterprises pointed out that "This company is a distillery and not a food processor. It can only do the business it does. Creating jobs at a place where there are absolutely none right now is one way of addressing the food crisis."
The ministry of agriculture also declined to comment on the project, but said it was pursuing irrigation schemes aimed at small-scale farmers on communal Swazi Nation Land, where 80 percent of the population lives.
Mfomfo Nkhambule, a member of parliament who has been critical of government attempts to cultivate sugar cane rather than staple foods, has raised his concerns in parliament, but few oher politicians have commented on the food crisis.
"As long as the WFP [World Food Programme] and others are providing food, there seems a lack of urgency," a local newspaper columnist commented.
Agriculture extension officer Mthetfwa said the cassava ethanol project illustrated a similar skewing of priorities. "We cannot depend on food aid to come to us indefinitely ... from what I hear, the donors are wondering why we are not doing more for ourselves with the resources we have."
Treasure Maphanga, the director of the Esicojeni Foundation, a child hunger alleviation programme run by business and civil society, commented at a press briefing this week, "I am angry at the fact that, with all the human and natural resources, this country still depends on food handouts. We have an opportunity to correct the situation by the involvement of all people in the fight against the dependency syndrome."
At the beginning of 2007 the WFP projected that 220,000 people would be in need of assistance in Swaziland, but has since increased this figure to 365,000 beneficiaries receiving assistance from October 2007 until the next harvest in April 2008.
21 October 2007
The push for scaling up the use of Plumpynut, the promising new RUTF, got a huge boost when US TV network CBS aired an 11 minute feature this week on "60 Minutes" by high-profile journalist Anderson Cooper. Cooper asks:
"... Why are so many kids dying? Because they can't get the milk, vitamins and minerals their young bodies need. Mothers in these villages can't produce enough milk themselves and can't afford to buy it. Even if they could, they can't store it -- there's no electricity, so no refrigeration. Powdered milk is useless because most villagers don't have clean water. Plumpynut was designed to overcome all these obstacles ... Plumpynut is cheap, nutritious and needs no refrigeration. It is saving starving children in the developing world and could save more … if there were more of it."To watch the full story click here. And below is an audio transcript of the story:
A Life Saver Called "Plumpynut"Produced By Robert Anderson and Casey Morgan
Oct. 21, 2007
(CBS) You've probably never heard a good news story about malnutrition, but you're about to. Every year, malnutrition kills five million children -- that's one child every six seconds. But now, the Nobel Prize-winning relief group "Doctors Without Borders" says it finally has something that can save millions of these children.
It's cheap, easy to make and even easier to use. What is this miraculous cure? As CNN's Anderson Cooper reports, it's a ready-to-eat, vitamin-enriched concoction called "Plumpynut," an unusual name for a food that may just be the most important advance ever to cure and prevent malnutrition.
"It's a revolution in nutritional affairs," says Dr. Milton Tectonidis, the chief nutritionist for Doctors Without Borders.
"Now we have something. It is like an essential medicine. In three weeks, we can cure a kid that is looked like they're half dead. We can cure them just like an ntibiotic. It's just, boom! It's a spectacular response," Dr. Tectonidis says.
"It's the equivalent of penicillin, you're saying?" Cooper asks.
"For these kids, for sure," the doctor says.
No kids need it more than a group of children 60 Minutes saw in Niger, a desperately poor country in West Africa, where child malnutrition is so widespread that most mothers have watched at least one of their children die.
Why are so many kids dying? Because they can't get the milk, vitamins and minerals their young bodies need. Mothers in these villages can't produce enough milk themselves and can't afford to buy it. Even if they could, they can't store it -- there's no electricity, so no refrigeration. Powdered milk is useless because most villagers don't have clean water. Plumpynut was designed to overcome all these obstacles.
Plumpynut is a remarkably simple concoction: it is basically made of peanut butter, powdered milk, powdered sugar, and enriched with vitamins and minerals. It tastes like a peanut butter paste. It is very sweet, and because of that kids cannot get enough of it.
The formula was developed by a nutritionist. It doesn't need refrigeration, water, or cooking; mothers simply squeeze out the paste. Many children can even feed themselves. Each serving is the equivalent of a glass of milk and a multivitamin.
To see the impact it's having, 60 Minutes drove for 12 hours from Niger's capital to a remote village, where every week Doctors Without Borders hand out Plumpynut. After sleeping in a field under mosquito nets, Cooper and the team awoke at sunrise to find mothers emerging from the fields. Many had walked for hours in the dark, along treacherous paths, avoiding scorpions, spiders and poisonous snakes.
Rivers of women flowed into the site and within minutes there were more than a thousand of them, all waiting to get packets or tubs of Plumpynut. In a land where plastic bags are a luxury, they carry the food home in their scarves, their hands, or simply stacked on top of their heads.
"When you see some of these kids they don't look sick. They don't look malnourished. They don't have bloated bellies or little stick arms," Cooper remarks.
"The ones that we're used to seeing on TV, that's the worst of the worst of the worst. It's the tip of the iceberg. And then below that, there's the iceberg. So, there's a whole spectrum of malnutrition," Dr. Tectonidis says. "And when we go and check these kids, well, they're way off in height or in weight. They're way off."
Niger has become Plumpynut's proving ground. A daily dose costs about $1; small factories mix it here and in three other African countries. Tectonidis says other companies could make similar products wherever children need them.
"There's many countries in Africa now saying, 'We want a factory. We want a factory.' Well let's give it to them," he says. "We just have to focus on these areas. We don't have to feed the whole world. We have to go for the jugular. Where are they dying? Where are they wasted? That's where we have to intervene. If you feed them well until they're two or three years old it's won. They're healthy, they can get a healthy life. If you miss that window, it's finished."
In Niger, most children need help now during what's called the "hunger season," just before the new harvest. Old food supplies have run out and about all that's left is millet, a basic grain women pound for porridge. But millet doesn't have enough nutrients to keep kids alive; in America we use it as birdseed.
Normally a children's hospital 60 Minutes visited would have more patients than beds. But now, thanks to Plumpynut, it has empty beds. Dr. Susan Shepherd, a pediatrician from Butte, Mont., runs Doctors Without Borders in Niger.
She says children that would have been hospitalized in the past can now be treated at home. "The reason we can do that is because we can give children Plumpynut here in the ambulatory center, and they take a week's ration home. Moms treat their children at home and come back every week for a weight check," Dr. Shepherd explains.
That's what Sahia Ibrahim has been doing. She's already lost four children to malnutrition. Now her six-month-old twins, Hassana and Husseina, are malnourished and she's worried they might die too. So she's been coming to the hospital for Plumpynut.
Hassana, at six months old, weighs only seven pounds. While that's what a newborn should weigh, the little girl has put on a pound in just a week thanks to Plumpynut.
Children are weighed and measured at the distribution sites. They're also examined to make sure they don't have any serious infections.
Malnutrition destroys a child's immune system, so they're more susceptible to diseases and less capable of recovering from them.
"Often these kids aren't even hungry. It's the opposite. They are anorexic because of the deficiencies they have. They lose their appetite," Tectonidis explains.
That's what happened to Mansour Miko and Maroufee Mazoo. Less than a year old, they had stopped eating and became listless and weak -- so weak that when their mothers brought them to get Plumpynut, the nurse put them in a van and sent them straight to the hospital. Three days later however, they were smacking their lips on Plumpynut, almost ready to go home.
"Have you seen kids who were on the brink of death brought back by Plumpynut?" Cooper asks.
"Oh, yeah, for sure. Again and again and again and again," Dr.Shepherd says.
But not always. Sometimes parents wait too long before bringing their child to doctors. 60 Minutes found Rashida Mahmadou in intensive care, barely clinging to life.
Rashida's condition was very serious. Her skin was literally peeling away -- one side effect of malnutrition, as skin becomes thin, pliable, cracks easily, and bacteria invade.
Just two hours later, Rashida's little heart stopped beating. She was just 19 months old.
"She died of severe, acute malnutrition," says Shepherd, who says she sees this happening every day.
Asked how she deals with so many kids dying, Shepherd tells Cooper, "It breaks your heart. It can break your spirit. It can ruin your confidence in your ability to be a good doctor. And it is sad. And I carry memories of many, many children with me and I'll carry them with me for my entire life. But you certainly cannot indulge yourself in that kind of sadness. We need to do something about this."
If Plumpynut is the answer, how come kids are still dying?
"The answer is getting to kids earlier," Shepherd says. "Once children are as sick as she is, Plumpynut is not gonna save her."
Rashida was buried in a nearby cemetery. The grave digger, Salifu Ibrahim, told 60 Minutes he used to dig graves for about seven children a day, but now, on most days, he digs only one.
Asked why he thinks fewer children are dying, Ibrahim says, "It is God's will."
God's will and Plumpynut.
Two years ago this region had the highest malnutrition rate in Niger. But now, after widespread use of the Plumpynut, it has the lowest. Dr.Shepherd told Cooper they'll be able to treat more than 120,000 kids this year, up from just 10,000 children three years ago.
What about peanut allergies?
"We just don't see it," Shepherd says. "In developing countries food allergy is not nearly the problem that it is in industrialized countries. It's hard to imagine a less industrialized country than Niger. On a list of 177 developing countries, the United Nations ranked Niger dead last -- least developed. More than 70 percent of the people don't know how to read. Most work in the fields and earn less than a dollar a day. Nomadic goat herders still roam this land -- their children and their kids travel by camel. Goats seem to be the main garbage disposal, but clearly the goats are falling behind. You can still spot a skinny guard dog, but we were told all the cats have been cooked.
In the countryside, where 85 percent of people live, girls start marrying as young as 11 years old. By the age of 15 most are wed, and by 16 most have already become mothers. The average woman here will give birth at least eight times in her lifetime. But largely because of malnutrition, one in five of their children will die before they reach the age of five. Of those who survive, half will have stunted growth and never reach full adult height.
But now, with Plumpynut, more children are surviving and thriving.
"And kids are doing better. Moms say their child's skin is brighter. Their appetites are better. And they're less sick. You know, what more could you ask for," Shepherd remarks.
Doctors Without Borders is asking for more of this type of food. Their success in Niger proves, they say, that fortified ready-to-eat products, like Plumpynut, save children's lives. Dr. Tectonidis says if the United States and the European Union were willing to spend part of their food aid on this, more companies will start taking it.
"Even by taking a miniscule proportion of the global food aid budget, they will have a huge impact, huge impact!" Tectonidis says. "We're not even asking for billions. It will solve so much of the underlying useless death. So we gotta do that now."
"It's useless death," Cooper remarks.
"Wasted life. Just totally wasted life for nothing. Because they don't have this product, little a bit of peanut butter with vitamins," Tectonidis says. "What a waste."
(c) MMVII, CBS Interactive Inc. Read more...
5 October 2007
From the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative
One in seven women in some poor countries die in childbirth. Nearly 10 million children under five die of each year, almost all of which are possible to prevent. Watch WHO Director General Margaret Chan, Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, U.S. Senator Bill Frist and other renowned health experts relate the world's most critical health challenges and the actions we must take to meet them.Read more...
4 October 2007
"The competition for grain between the world's 800 million motorists, who want to maintain their mobility, and its two billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive, is emerging as an epic issue," says Lester Brown, president of the Washington-based thinktank, the Worldwatch Institute. The debate over the impact on food security of the global "gold rush" in biofuels is hotting up. Divergent positions are emerging, ranging from the optimistic:
"We agree ... that the demand for biofuels will tend to lift prices for cereals and oilseeds. But is that a bad thing? What has been holding back agriculture in the developing world is not a shortage of land, but the rock-bottom prices caused by the fact that world markets have been swamped by surplus grain, from both the EU and US. If the demand for biofuels helps to change that, directly by lifting prices and indirectly by mopping up the surpluses, then it will give Third World farming the biggest single boost it has ever had. That, in turn, will do more to alleviate starvation in Africa and elsewhere than all the food aid programmes put together."...to the cataclysmic:
A "perfect storm" of ecological and social factors appears to be gathering force, threatening vast numbers of people with food shortages and price rises. Even as the world's big farmers are pulling out of producing food for people and animals, the global population is rising by 87 million people a year; developing countries such as China and India are switching to meat-based diets that need more land; and climate change is starting to hit food producers hard. ...See also:
"...the surge in demand for agrofuels such as ethanol is hitting the poor and the environment the hardest. The UN World Food Programme, which feeds about 90m people mostly with US maize, reckons that 850m people around the world are already undernourished. There will soon be more because the price of food aid has increased 20% in just a year. Meanwhile, Indian food prices have risen 11% in a year, the price of the staple tortilla quadrupled in Mexico in February and crowds of 75,000 people came on to the streets in protest. South Africa has seen food-price rises of nearly 17%, and China was forced to halt all new planting of corn for ethanol after staple foods such as pork soared by 42% last year."
28 September 2007
Helen Keller International announced at the Clinton Global Initiative that it will partner with the H.J. Heinz Company to target 6 million iron-deficient children under 5 in India:
Working closely with the India Ministry of Health, HKI, Heinz, and other partners are developing sustainable, large-scale distribution of a multi-micronutrient called Sprinkles® -- a tasteless dry powder presented in single-serve packages, or sachets, that can be stirred into any food after it is cooked and before it is served. The powder does not change the appearance, taste or texture of food, does not require special measuring or handling, and is resistant to humidity – all of which encourage regular use. [...]HKI notes that deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals (VMDs), such as vitamin A and iron, are major causes of premature death, disability and reduced work capacity throughout the world. VMDs, in fact, account for 10% of the global health burden. In West Africa, HKI has been at the forefront of building public/private partnerships to promote micronutrient fortification of processed food staples and condiments as a sustainable strategy to address VMDs. Read more...
24 September 2007
The latest edition of the United States State Dept's eJournal focuses on food aid and provides insights into current policy trends including a sketch of the issues involved in the new US Farm Bill currently before Congress; an interview with World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran; and an article by Ina Schonberg, of Save the Children, who writes about finding the balance between food and cash in the fight against child hunger in Bangladesh:
Food aid tied to specific development objectives has worked in Bangladesh. It has raised households’ income, allowed girls to enroll in and complete school, and reduced food insecurity during periods of hunger. [...] Read the whole article here.
But it takes more than food to fight hunger. The effectiveness of food aid is maximized when programmed together with cash aid. Cash is needed, for example, for training people to grow their own food, supplying them with the initial supplies, and monitoring their progress.
Cash aid is also critical to ensure that food aid is programmed effectively for improving health care and access to water, improving schools, and responding to flood disasters. Innovative programs can include combinations of cash-supported programs, food aid, and even cash transfers.
21 September 2007
HungerFREE is a new global campaign from ActionAid International which spans more than 30 countries and calls on governments to deliver on their Millennium Development Goal commitment to halve hunger by 2015, by ensuring that they respect, protect and fulfil the right to food; strengthen corporate regulations; expose companies when they exploit poor people; and protect poor women’s access to land. Read more...
20 September 2007
In 2006, the United Nations Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence made specific recommendations which will have an important impact on the coordination of humanitarian and development actors within countries in years to come. UN participation will be crucial to a successful broad-based effort to address child hunger and undernutrition, therefore here are 10 ways that the panel recommended for the UN to "deliver as one" at the country level:
1. The UN should “deliver as one” at country level, with one leader, one programme, one budget and, where appropriate, one office. All UN programme activities will be consolidated at the country level, where the country wishes it. An empowered Resident Coordinator would manage the “One UN” Country Programme. There will be UN system-wide ownership of the RC system. UNDP will be restructured to focus and strengthen its operational work on policy coherence and positioning of the UN country team, and withdraw from sector-focused policy and capacity work being done by other UN organizations.
2. A UN Sustainable Development Board should be established to oversee the One UN Country Programme. The Board will oversee the One UN Country Programme, ensure system-wide coherence and coordination, and monitor performance of global activities. The Board will also main- tain a strategic overview of the UN system to drive coordination and joint planning between all funds, programmes and specialized agencies, to monitor overlaps and gaps. The Board will give a stronger voice and participation to developing countries, and report to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Secretary-General should appoint the UNDP Administrator as a UN Development Coordinator, with responsibility for the performance and accountability of UN development activities.
3. A Global Leader’s Forum (L27) should be established within ECOSOC to upgrade its policy coordination role in economic, social and related issues. The Forum, at the Heads of State and Government level, would provide leadership and guidance to the international community on development and global public goods issues. The Forum would also develop a strategic framework to secure consistency in the policy goals of the major international organizations in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
4. The Secretary-General of the UN, the President of the World Bank and the Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund should set up a process to review, update and conclude formal agreements on their respective roles and relations at the global and country levels.
5. A MDG Funding Mechanism should be established to provide multi-year funding for the One UN Country Programme. Significant changes to the way donor funding is managed are needed if the UN is to work more coherently and effectively at the country level and globally. A new MDG Funding Mechanism, for donor funding would provide multi-year funding for the One UN Country Programme, governed by the Sustainable Development Board. Contributions would be voluntary and could be specified. Additional funding should be available at the discretion of the Board to reward good performing organizations, and to fund programmatic gaps and priorities in the system. UN organizations committed to and demonstrating reform should receive full, multi-year core funding. The funding cycles of UN funds and programmes should be aligned to facilitate overall strategic coordination of UN programmatic work. The assessed budgets of the Specialized Agencies should be reviewed to ensure they have adequate core resources to deliver against strategic mandates.
6. The UN’s leading role in humanitarian disasters and transition from relief to development must be further enhanced. There should be stronger coordination through a “cluster approach” to establish lead roles amongst humanitarian agencies to deliver on specific needs. The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) should be fully funded to ensure quicker, more effective flows of funds in response to disaster. The mandates of UN organizations – particularly the role of UNHCR - with regard to responsibilities for internally displaced persons must be clarified. Greater investment in risk reduction and early warning strategies is needed, with stronger leadership, quicker funding and better cooperation between the UN and World Bank in post-conflict and post-disaster transition. A clear lead role for UNDP in the transition from relief to development.
7. International environmental governance should be strengthened and made more coherent in order to improve effectiveness and targeted action of environmental activities in the UN system.
The Secretary-General should commission an independent assessment to improve interna- tional environmental governance. UNEP should be upgraded and have real authority as the environmental policy pillar of the UN system. The Global Environmental Facility should be strengthened as the major financial mechanism for the global environment. The UN’s ability to help countries mainstream environmental policies into national development strategies should be improved. The status of sustainable development in the UN institutional architecture should be upgraded.
8. A dynamic UN entity focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment should be established. Three existing UN entities (UNIFEM, Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues, and UN Division for the Advancement of Women) will be consolidated into one enhanced and independent gender entity. It will have a stronger normative and advocacy role, combined with a targeted programming role. The gender entity will be fully and ambitiously funded. Gender equality will be a component of the One UN Country Programme, and remain the responsibility of all UN organizations.
9. A UN common evaluation system should be established by 2008. Other business practices, such as human resource policies, planning and results-based management, should be upgraded and harmonized across the UN system as a driver for better performance and results.
FURTHER STREAMLINING AND CONSOLIDATION:
10. The SG should establish an independent task force to further eliminate duplication within the UN system and to consolidate UN entities, where necessary. The task force should build on the foundation of the Panel’s work to clearly delineate the roles performed by UN funds, programmes, specialized agencies and regional entities, including the UN secretariat. Concrete recommendations for mergers or consolidation should be made, for early implementation. Up to 20 per cent savings per annum could be derived system-wide from this process, which would be recycled back into the One UN Country programmes.
19 September 2007
Opinion from the International Herald Tribune:
"American corn-based ethanol is expensive. And while it can help cut oil imports and provide modest reductions in greenhouse gases compared with conventional gasoline, corn ethanol also carries considerable risks. Even now as Europe and China join the United States in ramping up production, world food prices are rising, threatening misery for the poorest countries. [...]Read more...
"The distortions in agricultural production are startling. Corn prices are up about 50 percent from last year, while soybean prices are projected to rise up to 30 percent in the coming year, as farmers have replaced soy with corn in their fields. The increasing cost of animal feed is raising the prices of dairy and poultry products. [...]
"Corn-based ethanol also requires a lot of land. An OECD report two years ago suggested that replacing 10 percent of America's motor fuel with biofuels would require about a third of the total cropland devoted to cereals, oilseeds and sugar crops."
18 September 2007
A paediatrician writes from the field in Northern Uganda:
Recently, I spent seven days at Lira Regional Hospital working in the paediatric units. I was a participant in one of the medical camps organised by the rotary clubs of Uganda and India, and the Uganda Medical Association and Association of Surgeons of Uganda. The camps operated in Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Amuru and Lira districts. What struck me most was the number of malnourished children attending the Lira hospital. The children ranged from the seven months to five years.
Some of the mothers said they had had family break-ups, hence no source of income to cater for the family, while others were involved in land disputes and could not grow food. Many mothers leave their children home and spend most of the day either tilling their fields or offering casual labour to generate money to buy food. Children receive one main meal in the evening and another miserable one in the morning, comprising mainly leftovers from supper. These meals are grossly inadequate.The medical superintendent of Lira, Dr. Jane Aceng, blames the situation on lack of food, HIV/AIDS related illnesses and diarrhoeal diseases. Families have returned home from IDP camps to find no land, no home, no safe water, no proper sanitation, no food, and no source of income.
Nutrition is the foundation on which human progress is built. Without food and nutrition children are especially vulnerable to contracting life-threatening diseases, which expose them to further malnutrition and a vicious cycle begins.
Worldwide, the death toll from hunger and malnutrition far exceeds that caused by even the most dramatic natural disasters. Studies have shown that girls that are born underweight are more likely to have stunted growth, and in turn give birth to underweight babies who are more receptive to disease. Children need a good nutritional start early in life to ensure healthy growth and development and to avoid long-term damage. Many malnourished children face greater risk of dropping out of school and living a life of poverty.
As a result of the war in northern Uganda, access to land was decreased, limiting the capacity of families to grow their own food. Most food eaten in the households is donated by the World Food Programme (WFP) and consists of maize flour, cooking oil and beans.
This food aid, which began in 1996, provided 78% of the daily food rations. Reports from the Ministry of Health and the Norwegian Council say 30% of the displaced population either did not receive food aid or received it irregularly.
Other additional food aid sources were provided through the school feeding programmes. To complement the food ratios received from WFP, the IDPs occasionally did some petty trading within the town or got temporary employment in casual labour activities such as alcohol brewing, charcoal burning, or digging for other people in exchange for food. Sanitation and living conditions were also poor in the camps.
Studies show that fever, lack of de-worming and absence of parents aggravate the malnutrition problem. Therefore, mothers should be supported and informed about the benefits of feeding their children adequately. Infections should be dealt with as early as possible, which requires sensitisation of the mothers on the danger signs to look out for in their children. Regular de-worming of children as well as improving their nutritional status is crucial.
Efforts should be made to ensure that the peace process reaches a logical conclusion. When political stability returns to northern Uganda, families will be able to settle and re-cultivate their land.
To meet the Millennium Development Goal target of halving hunger by 2015 (MDG1), education and agricultural extension should be undertaken, with emphasis on assisting women's groups. Agriculture and increased food production should be followed by the creation of business and work opportunities. Hunger and mlnutrition can thus be considerably reduced as incomes increase.
The traditional response to acute malnutrition has been to refer children to a hospital or specialised in-patient treatment unit, to be fed special milk-based diets. Though this treatment is effective, families in rural areas may not have easy access to health facilities that could provide such care. In-patient treatment is mandatory for this type of treatment. But this may not be an option for parents who cannot leave their homes for several weeks. In addition, severely malnourished children are vulnerable to infections as a result of weak immunity and could be at risk in crowded hospital wards.
World Health Organisation, WFP, the UNICEF and the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition say about 75% of children with acute malnutrition - those who have a good appetite and no medical complications - can be treated with highly fortified, ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs). These are palatable, soft and crushable nutrient- and energy-rich foods that that can be eaten by children over the age of six months without adding water, thereby reducing the risk of bacterial infection. A simple RUTF recipe can consist of full cream milk powder, sugar, groundnut paste, vegetable oil and combined mineral and vitamin mixture in calculated quantities. RUTFs provide the nutrients required to treat a severely malnourished child at home, without refrigeration and even where hygiene conditions are not perfect.
Studies in Mulago Hospital show that children admitted to the Mwanamugimu Nutrition Unit who received RUTF had a higher weight gain than those using the traditional high-energy milk. Considering this advantage, coupled with the definitely much higher weight gain observed and the convenience of administering the mixture in a home setting, RUTF can be a potentially better alternative to use in these children.
Interested donors could look at this as a better alternative to manage the plight of the malnourished children in the war-torn northern Uganda.
The problem of child growth and development is not only a medical one but it is also social and economic. The goal should be to create conditions in which women and children can thrive. This includes healthy mothers during pregnancy, better education, effective disease control and household food security.
By Angelina Kakooza Mwesige, Kampala. The writer is a paediatrician.
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17 September 2007
From UNICEF TV:
"Two years after Niger's severe nutrition crisis, the sight of undernourished children is less common than it was, but chronic malnutrition still affects more than 50 percent of the country's young children. And 10 per cent of Niger's children suffer from acute malnutrition, even when the harvests are good. Like many therapeutic health centres across Niger, the UNICEF-supported clinic in Tillabery -- an hour away from the capital, Niamey -- gives Plumpy'nut to severely malnourished children. The high-protein, high-energy, peanut-based paste typically comes in foil wrappers or small plastic tubs, which are practical for children who can easily eat them."Read more...
10 September 2007
Once introduced, interventions to promote hand washing with soap have remarkable capacity for sustainability with one study demonstrating that two years after a four-month intervention with the provision of free soap, more than three-quarters of mothers continued to purchase and use soap. The annual cost of soap alone for a household of five is approximately US$5.82.(1)
1. See The Global Framwork for Action to End Child Hunger and Undernutrition. (WFP, UNICEF and others 2006-07)
13 August 2007
UNICEF correspondent Nina Martinek reports on breastfeeding and nutrition programmes in Koupela, Burkina Faso. For a rundown of events and activities worldwide during World Breastfeeding Week, click here. Meanwhile, a tribute to breastfeeding mothers everywhere...